A cast of junior and senior high school students will present “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in a Readers’ Theater performance Friday and Saturday (Feb. 8 and 9) at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp.
The award-winning play tells the story of 15-year-old Christopher, a boy with autism who is exceptionally intelligent, but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion of killing his neighbor’s dog, Christopher sets out to identify the true culprit – leading to an earth-shattering discovery, and a journey that will change his life forever.
Directed by Missi Smith, The Merc’s artistic director, the play features 10 students from seventh grade through seniors. The play is a fitting one for students because it explores “how we all are challenged to cope with trauma,” Smith said.
“We all make mistakes and have a hard time communicating with people and figuring out what to do,” she said. “Christopher teaches adults around him more about living than they teach him.”
Smith said the performance benefitted from the participation of Dean Hussey, a Liberty Bell High School senior who has autism. Smith said she decided not to cast Hussey as Christopher because she didn’t want him “to have to play the role of pretending to be what he is.” However, Hussey shared his observations about autism with fellow cast members, she said.
“It’s been rewarding to have him be part of the project,” Smith said. “He got to describe autism for the whole group, including the boy who is reading that part. It opened up a conversation where he got to explain the idiosyncrasies of the main character.” The performance also uses music selected by Hussey for the preshow and intermission, Smith said.
Christopher’s father has kept a secret from him, and that aspect of the plot also prompted a conversation among cast members about family secrets, Smith said. “There is a lot of discussion material for the students,” she said.
Although the performers are students, the show will appeal to adult audiences, Smith said. “I don’t want adults to think it’s a high school production.”
Performances begin at 7 p.m. both nights. Doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime. Tickets are available at the door; $10 for adults and free for 18 and under.